Saturday, 10 October 2015

Why Coaching Matters, Part 1: 10th October 2015

It has been just over a year since starting coaching sessions in the Southend area for adults and it's been great to see so many people giving Parkour a go and exploring movement. Things have progressed from 1 adult class class to 4+ classes a week for children and adults (with more opportunities planned). This clearly shows the interest and the need for quality Parkour learning opportunities in the local area and further across the UK, being met by a growing plethora of dedicated coaches.

For this blog series, I wanted to share some experiences from training and coaching over the past decade and share some thoughts about Parkour coaching, guidance and it's importance for learning through a practice as diverse as Parkour.

Coaching & The Internet:
When I first started Parkour, we had Snail-paced internet and no YouTube. We shared ideas, questions and videos via forum links and (Shoutout!). We often left things on download while we'd head out training for the day sitting ready for us to watch by the time we got home!

Given that Parkour was 'new' to the UK, only a handful of mostly forum based websites existed to help each other learn together, (A focused Parkour forum) being a primary resource of current information and discussion... and Andi. ;)

Without the internet, we wouldn't have had opportunities to meet up, formulate ideas, learn about the history, share experiences, discuss techniques, organise communities, learn from more experienced people and formulate our own views and opinions based on the evidence and discussions available at hand. Internet forums were a searchable, ever evolving resource, documenting the ongoing learning and evolution of Parkour, predominantly focused on movement aspirations stemming from a tiny pool of videos, interviews and literature of the early pioneers.

A few words I use to describe these videos and those in them: raw, powerful, simple, fast, strong. See what I mean? 

Today, the internet is the first port of call for information, it is a massive part of our lives, our culture, our businesses, our learning.... however it needs to be remembered, it is all still very young.

It's still learning how to effectively share and regulate information and we're still learning how it affects us.

Today, with any subject, anyone has the means to create a "how-to" video and share it; on occasion this content may is good and help things develop, but mostly, content shared lacks in the intricacies which may need to be conveyed, this content neglects the hours and hours of training and failures and focuses on the end-result, the spectacle... and this is the best of the bad stuff.... the rest may be viral-focused, views-hunting, subscription-wanting video content .... "junk-food", pushing stuff which more often than not, malnourishes the practice and those searching for it. 

The internet is unregulated, anyone can post and say anything, experienced or not. At least with coaching in the UK and learning in person with a qualified coach, there have been steps and in reality, years worth of checks and balances put in place to ensure experience, understanding and a good level of coaching ability. These skills have been developed and assessed in order to provide students with a good level of information and guidance. This provides instant feedback, opportunities to be challenged and supported to learn and grow in that moment, there and then alongside a high degree of care and accountability.

I'm not knocking the internet at all, it's such an amazing resource to share and learn through and it has helped massively in the growth and development of Parkour; nor am I saying "old content" was the perfect example, but with the community being smaller and having less available, there was or seemed to be a greater level of accountability. We had pages and pages of forum comments following a video and generate further, worthwhile discussion on the positives and negatives of the video's content, realising the benefits and limitations of what was being shared so that we can all grow and learn together (this is far removed from the youtube trolling comments from people that may or may not care about Parkour).

The speed and ease of distribution of information may be more of a hindrance to real knowledge than a benefit as is often assumed, in particular individuals who do not question information presented.

The unregulated nature of today's content; the impressionability of young people and for beginners who may not know any better, can be a potentially harmful thing.

The information we feed the mind and body, manifests in our lives and actions, the higher the quality and greater balance of information taken in, will provide a greater, more rounded and healthy understanding of the whole practice.

For some, the internet may well still be the primary option for learning... so as long as you research, challenge and question what's provided, it can absolutely help you on your journey. If you have the opportunity to access a coach nearby, (certified, experienced and clearly lives by what they teach) it make's a lot of sense to use them, chances are they've been there and done it and will guide you to find your own way of doing things and help you in find what's important, in both training and life.

With great power comes great responsibility. Question it all, challenge it, explore it.

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